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In re Estate of Taylor

Court of Appeals of Idaho

December 6, 2013

IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF DONALD LEE TAYLOR, DECEASED.
v.
MICHAEL JOSEPH TAYLOR, Personal Representative of THE ESTATE OF DONALD LEE TAYLOR, Respondent-Cross Appellant. JEFFREY L. TAYLOR, Petitioner-Appellant-Cross Respondent,

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

2013 Unpublished Opinion No. 781

Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Kathryn A. Sticklen, District Judge. Hon. Christopher M. Bieter, Magistrate.

Order of the district court on appeal from the magistrate division, affirming order granting summary judgment in estate, affirmed and remanded.

Ellis Law, PLLC, Boise, for appellant. Allen B. Ellis argued.

Eberble, Berlin, Kading, Turnbow & McKlveen, Chtd., Boise, for respondent. Joseph H. Uberuaga, II, argued.

MELANSON, Judge

Jeffrey L. Taylor appeals from the district court's order, entered in its appellate capacity, affirming the magistrate's grant of summary judgment in favor of Michael Joseph Taylor in Jeffrey's contest of their father's will for lack of testamentary capacity. Michael cross-appeals the district court's denial of his request for attorney fees on intermediate appeal. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm and remand.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURE

Donald Lee Taylor and his wife Bernice had eleven children during their marriage, all of whom are still living. Michael is the youngest of Donald's children and lived with Donald and Bernice for most of his life. Michael continued living with his parents when they moved to Idaho in 2006 and took care of them as their health began to deteriorate. Beginning shortly before Bernice's death in October 2009 and continuing through May 2010, several of Donald's children--including Jeffrey--began to notice some bizarre conduct by Donald. The conduct included delusional episodes, a preoccupation with carrying firearms, occasional violent outbursts, trouble with basic self-care, and trouble carrying on conversations and organizing his thoughts. Also, in the months immediately preceding and following Bernice's death, Donald occasionally thought that his wife was still alive or that he was living in Italy and dating someone.

In June 2010, Michael took Donald to a psychologist for an assessment of his cognitive faculties relating to his capacity to continue driving or carrying a concealed weapon. The doctor determined that Donald presented the essential elements of progressive dementia, exhibiting significant cognitive deficits that would impair his judgment and daily activities. The doctor noted that he did not believe Donald to be cognitively competent to make complex decisions in an informed manner. At his deposition, the doctor clarified that he believed it would be difficult for Donald to make complex financial decisions or engage in daily planning. He also opined that he believed it would be difficult for Donald to make a will, but admitted that he had not seen Donald for that purpose and needed to be educated as to the correct standard for making a will. On cross-examination, the doctor admitted his belief that Donald would definitely know his family, and the doctor admitted that he had not asked Donald about his assets or whether he understood the effect of a will. The doctor also specifically stated that he did not know whether Donald lacked testamentary capacity.

Michael took Donald to an attorney a month after the psychologist's assessment to have a will drafted. In his affidavit, the attorney stated that he questioned Donald regarding his family, his assets, and how he wished to dispose of those assets through his will. According to the attorney, Donald was able to name all eleven of his children without assistance and was able to identify his major assets. The attorney's affidavit states that Donald was adamant about leaving his entire estate to Michael. When Donald returned to execute his will a few weeks later, the attorney again explained to Donald that his will would leave everything to Michael and nothing to his other ten children, which Donald stated was what he wanted. The attorney advised Donald that he could leave personal property to his other children through a personal property list, but he refused even after Michael had said that his siblings could have whatever they wanted. The attorney alleged that nothing in Donald's conduct indicated that he lacked testamentary capacity and stated that he had no doubt Donald had the requisite testamentary capacity to execute his will. The will execution was witnessed by a licensed clinical social worker who stated in his affidavit that there was nothing in Donald's conduct or statements that indicated issues with his mental competency.

Michael hired a caregiver to take care of Donald from July 2010 until his death in December 2010. The caregiver asserted in her affidavit that there had not been any issues with Donald's mental capacity and that Donald would often carry on long conversations with her, discussing his past and each of his children in detail. She also indicated that Donald seemed happy after he told her that he had gone with Michael to see a lawyer and sign some papers.

Following Donald's death, Michael sought appointment as personal representative of Donald's estate and submitted Donald's will for informal probate. Jeffrey objected to probate of the will, asserting that Donald lacked testamentary capacity. Jeffrey later petitioned for formal probate of a prior will and formal appointment of a personal representative, arguing that the will Michael submitted was invalid due to lack of testamentary capacity. Michael filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that there was no genuine issue of material fact as to Donald's competency on the day the will was executed. The magistrate granted the motion after a hearing, finding that, although there was evidence of bizarre conduct and a diagnosis of progressive dementia, there was no evidence presented that indicated Donald lacked ...


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